I did know the Turks were never able to conquer Vienna. The story goes that is how the croissant came to be: mocking the Turkish army they had food enough to ditch over the city wall (but I think that was during the siege by Suleyman one century prior).
But even when you know which side will win the battle the novel is still a thrilling read because there are many subplots. The book is also a historical correct one. The author included a list of literature he used that would have fitted a scientific thesis. One of the historic people mentioned made me look that one up on Wikipedia: a homosexual French nobleman, very ugly and a sprig, who was denied a French commission into the army because his mother was quite the scandal and decided to join the Austrian enemy instead and became one of the most renowned generals in history. The novel is filled with colourful real historic people even when they are mentioned just barely. Take for instance Kara Mustapha, the Turkish Grand Vizier who leads the army.
So what is the story about?
"Brash and brilliant, twenty year old Mathis Zieglar, Professor of Languages, faces an agonizing choice: should he fight the Turks who take his family hostage and move to destroy Vienna? Or should he betray his army to save his kin? Vienna’s Last Jihad is an historical novel set against the 1683 siege of Vienna.The Tartars who help the Turks and who Mathis encounters are very cruel people. But that was the times The Christian side are no saints either. The Jesuits who are a state within the state, the prosecution of the Hungarian protestants and the mighty people who just do what they want. So I cannot detect any xenophobic motives in the writer and that was what I was first a bit worried about.
Europe is balanced on a knife’s edge while Mathis, the man who holds its fate in his hands, struggles against powerful enemies: Father Sistini, a Jesuit who brands him a heretic and drags Mathis’ fiancée off to the Inquisition; a xenophobic city mob, who wants him dead for protecting a Hungarian soldier; but most dangerous of all, Captain Tyrek, a Muslim chieftain who will kill Mathis’ family unless he spies against his own army. One by one, Tyrek’s agents murder Mathis’ closest associates in an attempt to isolate him. As 138,000 Turks grind down Vienna’s 11,000 defenders with no relief in sight, Mathis’ only chance to save family and country is to use his ability to speak Tartar and the knack he learned as a child to leap, whirl like an unwinding mainspring, and strike."
The book is REALLY GOOD. It is fast pacing and thrilling but you also pick up a lot of knowledge on history and military stuff while reading. There was one thing I thought highly unlikely until I realised what his nickname was his family called him by I can really recommend it. I noticed there are two more books in this series and I certainly hope to read them too.